The Chaffee County Board of County Commissioners approved the application for a Heritage Water subdivision exemption for Centerville Ranch during their Tuesday, Aug. 13 regular meeting. The unanimous approval through a motion by Commissioner Keith Baker with a second by Commissioner Rusty Granzella, was not without some discussion about conditions for a heritage water exemption.

Centerville Ranch looking toward Browns canyon. (Photo courtesy Central Colorado Conservancy)

Applicant Jeff Ince, the owner of Centerville Ranch, explained that request for the heritage water exemption was assigned to the approximately five-acre site of the homestead and buildings. A Heritage Water Exemption is a historic water right, originally granted to rural parcels for purposes of drilling a well. As the county’s rural land is increasingly being divided and sold off, it is possible to retain these “heritage” water rights for a portion of the original land (often ranch buildings, as with Centerville Ranch).

Questions arose regarding whether approval could be granted without certainty over where the wastewater treatment systems are located on the parcel.

“The existing well is in the name of George Love for the historic farmhouse ‘from the 50s’, said Ince. “There are three dwelling units with two existing wastewater treatment systems. I am the applicant, and Karen Adams is the one who has purchased the lot.”

“We need to determine the locations of the onsite wastewater systems, and whether they are adequate for the houses and area it is serving,” said Planning Manager Jon Roorda. “Previous heritage water requests have been fairly clear. But this one has two systems – one is new (15 years) – but we don’t know what it serves, or where it is.” He indicated that if they could be located, then staff could ascertain the size of the tanks.

Ince said that just the day prior, Antero Septic had located one of the wastewater system areas near the [white] ranch house and have confirmed flow into the tank. However, they haven’t determined which residence it was coming from. He and engineer Mike Henderson questioned whether a heritage water exemption could be held up due to separate septic system questions.

“What staff is requiring is within the land use code criteria for heritage water exemptions,” said Assistant County Attorney Daniel Tom. “We are asking what is the simplest way to proceed?”

“We are really here for the well – this is to protect a water right,” said Adams. “Anything beyond that would be another application, another process. Another party I’m working with who has 40 aces, is looking at using the same process to protect his existing well. That would then leave the 35 acres for estate planning. It’s a surprise that it has become more complicated than that.”

Commissioner Greg Felt interjected, saying, “This is about protecting the exempt well water right, but it is also a division of a piece of property. We are creating a new legal parcel – so we’re coding a new plat, and that is the reason to at least know where these two systems are and how they are related to the dwellings….that has some logic to me.”

“But being shown and being tested are two different things,” said Henderson. “ We submitted this application in April.”

“There are multiple houses here, we just want to know where these [tanks and systems] are,” said Roorda. “Staff just wants to know what is connected to what and it should be shown on the plat.”

“Another concern is what the policy will be,” said Adams. “We’re looking at these old wells. We’re trying to clean this up.”

In resolution before the vote, it was agreed that the applicant will add the notes about the septic system location to the plat once all are located

Public Hearing on Poncha Springs well site

Commissioners approved a request by the Town of Poncha Springs for 0.1-acre out-lot to find a second well site as a redundant water supply for the town. No services are required for the use.

Resolution on Vista Sawatch Major Subdivision

In another land decision, the BoCC passed a resolution approving the preliminary and final plat for the Vista Sawatch Major Subdivision, located near the intersection of U.S. 285 and U.S. 291.

The dual approval of preliminary and final plat at the same time truncated the process by several months. That did not stop the applicant, John Adams, from registering several complaints. First, about the need to meet the county’s noxious weed management program. Second, he objected to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) delays in approving his transportation plan. Finally, the county’s requirements related to fee in lieu of fire management when the land is near the Arkansas River. “If there is water close enough, why are we doing the ‘fee in lieu’?” asked Adams.

Commissioners reminded Adams that the requirements were not at the last minute. The combination of doing a preliminary and a final plat at the same time meant that the required approvals all came at once and are published.

Baker also explained that there is still cost of hoses and staff to move water from rivers to fires, and the determination of fees versus hydrants is made by the fire district, not the county. Negotiating those requirements falls to the district and the applicant. Commissioners agreed that between resolution and when the final [plat] mylar is done, the applicant can finalize this with the fire district and adjusted the resolution language to reflect that.

Baker made the motion to approve with amended language for CDOT traffic plan approval (2F of the resolution ) and a change regarding CDOT approval of the traffic plan be extended from 30 days to 90 days. Granzella seconded, and it passed unanimously.

Commissioners discussed, and approved, providing a letter of support of the Colorado Central Telecom project to provide broadband cable up CR 162 through Chalk Creek Canyon as far as Alpine with the financial support of a state broadband grant.

While engineers say the easiest and quickest way to get approval is by burying the cable. It now appears that a combination of buried cable and running on overhead lines is what the state Forest Service will agree to.

“I visited the route with Meir’s construction [and the Forest Service] and a combined underground and overhead route that would get us to Alpine,” said Roorda. “At the top of Cascade Hill the power is north of the roadway – it takes off up the cliff. Beyond that, we’re at a dirt road, so there it would go into the road rather than the utility corridor up the hill – that could be more destructive than burying a cable.”

It is not yet confirmed whether the grant application would be more successful if the county or Colorado Central Telecom make it, but commissioners moved the project to the county’s active projects.